The third day of the Asian Cup in the UAE hosted some Middle Eastern action, with the game between Iran and Yemen.
The tournament’s two teams with the biggest gap between them in the FIFA rankings (Iran is first on the 29th place, Yemen the last is 145th), met for what was a special moment for the Yemenite team, as it was their first ever Asian Cup match.
Despite the quality differences between the teams, Iran’s Portuguese coach, Carlos Queiroz, was nervous before the game claiming his team’s preparation was yet again interrupted by issues who aren’t related to football.
When one of the correspondents pointed out that Yemen is having bigger problems than Iran currently, Queiroz said he doesn’t know about it. This was received with great uncomfortableness within the Asian football community. Reportedly he apologized later and made it clear that he did not mean to underestimate or misjudge the situation in Yemen. This time, Queiroz's brilliant underdog state of mind that he likes to implement his players’ minds, wasn’t on spot.
On the field, it was a different story. It took Team Melli around ten minutes to adjust the idea that they are playing an Asian Cup match, and then they began their hunting journey.
Yemen tried to produce some counter attacks, but the quality differences between the two teams were highly significant and present. On one side, a trained professional national team with players in a European level; form the other, a semi-amateur group of players, who had a very improvised preparation for the competition, that many of them are coming from a civil war reality.
The tears of Mohamed Fouad on the bench when the scoreboard showed 5:0 concluded it all. Yemen hoped to gain something for their people, that suffers constant bombing, deportations, cholera and heavy famine. They were in a search for a pure piece of ‘footballistic’ escapism, like Iraq had found in 2007, but couldn’t find it. Captain Alaa Al-Sassi mentioned on the day before the match by saying that “the fact that Yemen is here in the tournament is an achievement”. He was right, but it doesn’t make it less emotional for the Yemenites, who seem to become group D’s main points & goals supplier.
Iran overcame their ‘first game’ phobia, thanks to a magnificent goal Saman Ghoddos and a brace by Mehdi Taremi, but this wasn’t an indication for what is waiting for them in the competition. They still have to play the rising team of South East Asia - Vietnam - and to the fact their arch-rivals from Iraq.